on John 10 :8
All that ever came before me - Or, as some translate, all that came instead of me, προ εμου, i.e. all that came as the Christ, or Messiah, such as Theudas, and Judas the Gaulonite, who are mentioned, Acts 5:36, Acts 5:37; and who were indeed no other than thieves, plundering the country wherever they came; and murderers, not only slaying the simple people who resisted them, but leading the multitudes of their followers to the slaughter.
But our Lord probably refers to the scribes and Pharisees, who pretended to show the way of salvation to the people - who in fact stole into the fold, and clothed themselves with the fleece, and devoured the sheep.
The words, προ εμου, before me, are wanting in EGMS, Mt. BKV, seventy others; Syriac, Persic, Syriac Hieros., Gothic, Saxon, Vulgate, eleven copies of the Itala; Basil, Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Augustin, and some others. Griesbach has left them in the text with a note of doubtfulness. The reason thy these words are wanting in so many respectable MSS., versions, and fathers, is probably that given by Theophylact, who says that the Manicheans inferred from these words that all the Jewish prophets were impostors. But our Lord has borne sufficient testimony to their inspiration in a variety of places.
Κλεπτης, and λῃστης, the thief and the robber, should be properly distinguished; one takes by cunning and stealth; the other openly and by violence. It would not be difficult to find bad ministers who answer to both these characters. Tithes have been often enforced and collected in a most exceptionable manner, and in a most disgraceful spirit.
The reflection of pious Quesnel on this verse is well worth attention. A pastor ought to remember that whoever boasts of being the way of salvation, and the gate of heaven, shows himself to be a thief and an impostor; and though few are arrived at this degree of folly, yet there are many who rely too much upon their own talents, eloquence, and labors, as if the salvation of the sheep depended necessarily thereon: in which respect they are always robbers, since they rob the grace of Christ of the glory of saving the sheep. God often puts such pastors to shame, by not opening the hearts of the people to receive their word: while he blesses those who are humble, in causing them to be heard with attention, and accompanying their preaching with an unction which converts and saves souls. Let every man know that in this respect his sufficiency and success are of the Lord.
on John 10 :8
All that ever came before me - This does not refer to the prophets, but to those who came pretending to be the pastors or guides of the people. Some have supposed that he referred to those who pretended to be the Messiah before him; but there is not evidence that any such person appeared before the coming of Jesus. It is probable that he rather refers to the scribes and Pharisees, who claimed to be instructors of the people, who claimed the right to regulate the affairs of religion, and whose only aim was to aggrandize themselves and to oppress the people. See the notes at John 1:18. When the Saviour says that "all" were thieves, he speaks in a popular sense, using the word "all" as it is often used in the New Testament, to denote the great mass or the majority.
Thieves and robbers - See John 10:1; also Jeremiah 23:1; "Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture;" Ezekiel 34:2-3; "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed; but ye feed not the flock." This had been the general character of the Pharisees and scribes. They sought wealth, office, ease at the expense of the people, and thus deserved the character of thieves and robbers. They insinuated themselves slyly as a thief, and they oppressed and spared not, like a robber.
The sheep - The people of God - the pious and humble portion of the Jewish nation. Though the great mass of the people were corrupted, yet there were always some who were the humble and devoted people of God. Compare Romans 11:3-4. So it will be always. Though the great mass of teachers may be corrupt, yet the true friends of God will mourn in secret places, and refuse to "listen to the instruction that causeth to err."
on John 10 :8